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Aug 10, 2012

Reuters - Counterparties: Britain's toughest board

Barclays has a new centurion: David Walker will take over from Marcus Agius as Barclays chairman on November 1. Walker is a former regulator who served in the UK Treasury and Bank of England. That background will give Walker's credibility as he tries to overhaul the bank's culture, operations and reputation in the wake of the Libor scandal.
As lead author of the eponymous 2009 report on corporate governance at UK banks, Walker has already committed to the standards he – and other board members – should act on:
The most critical need is for an environment in which effective challenge of the executive is expected and achieved in the boardroom before decisions are taken on major risk and strategic issues. For this to be achieved will require close attention to board composition to ensure the right mix of both financial industry capability and critical perspective from high-level experience in other major business. It will also require a materially increased time commitment from non-executive directors ... In all of this, the role of the chairman is paramount, calling for both exceptional board leadership skills and ability to get confidently and competently to grips with major strategic issues. With so substantial an expectation and obligation, the chairman’s role will involve a priority of commitment that will leave little time for other business activity.
So far, Walker is following his own advice by committing to work a minimum of four days a week as chairman. Anything short of full-time may sound slight, but none of his peers have made their time commitment similarly transparent nor can credibly argue that theirs is greater. For that work, he'll receive £750,000 ($1.17 million), of which £100,000 will be in Barclays stock.
Additional transparency may be coming to Barclays in other forms, as well: the Walker report called for disclosure of the number of employees earning more than £1 million in salary and bonus and a tally of those "earning between £1m and £2.5m; £2.5m and £5m; and over £5m". Walker also called for the head of the board's pay committee to automatically face re-election if their proposals are supported by less than 75% of shareholders.
Walker also thinks boards should hear directly from risk officers, and should have final say over their hiring and firing. He wants the chief risk officer to report to other executives, but the CRO also "should report to the board risk committee, with direct access to the chairman of the committee".
These and Walker's many other recommendations add up to a view of the relationship between the chairman and the CEO at financial institutions very different from what we've recently seen. UK board oversight is on the whole more rigorous than in the US, and the chairman and CEO roles are invariably separate.  It's hard to imagine Jamie Dimon working under Walker's structure. In Walker's view, chief executives cannot be allowed to become indispensable or inscrutable: "If the embedding of authority... makes the CEO become effectively unchallengeable (and possibly a control freak), the CEO will be a major source of risk and will probably need to be removed". That should make for some interesting interviews as Walker takes up his first prominent task, finding a new CEO. – Ben Walsh
On to today's links:
Carl Levin is still not happy with Goldman Sachs – Politico
Will Erskine Bowles be our next Treasury Secretary? – Ezra Klein
"Fresh data suggest key sectors of the economy might be gaining traction" or not – WaPo
The More You Know
Valuing the priceless: EPA would spend $9.1 million to save a life, while FDA feels $7.9 million is more appropriate – Care 2
You Are a Snowflake
The latest in coupons: perfectly legal personalized price discimination – NYT
Primary Sources
A very sensible set of proposed rules for mortgage servicers, including warnings to borrowers over rate hikes – CFPB
Ex-Goldman programmer arrested again and charged by New York State for downloading "secret sauce" trading code – DealBook
Profit margins are "at unsustainable levels", and corporate earnings might be too – The Big Picture
Emile Zola, 1891: "the public is fooled and ruined by the brigands of Finance" – Liberty Street Economics
Standard Chartered's lawyers: from cost center to profit-seekers – FT
Writer critical of writers writing on writing – Salon
Time Magazine suspends Fareed Zakaria for a month over plagiarism – NYT

DealBook | DealB%K Afternoon Edition: Manchester United I.P.O. Ends Flat

Friday, August 10, 2012
Manchester United Trades Flat in Debut
Manchester United I.P.O. Ends Flat Manchester United stumbled after kicking off its initial public offering, as the world-famous soccer club's stock traded flat in its debut on Friday. At the close, shares of the English soccer team were nearly unchanged from the initial public offering price of $14. The stock sale valued the franchise at about $2.3 billion. By going public - while remaining firmly under the control of its majority owner, the Glazer family - Manchester United is hoping to challenge the history of sports teams that trade on stock exchanges. Namely, that such stocks are losers.
    British Regulators Plan Major Overhaul of Rate System The system at the center of the rate-rigging scandal will be overhauled as regulators respond to public anger over the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.
    In 'Supercapitalist,' Wall Street Is Back as a Villain A new independent movie, "Supercapitalist," has updated the familiar villain of Wall Street greed with modern-day changes, like the rise of Hong Kong, as Asia is the center for wealth and success.
    Swift Rescue in U.S. Provides Lessons for Europe The necessary steps to fix a financial crisis in the United States were painful and unpopular, according to the writer, who was the head of the Obama administration's financial crisis response team. But in Europe, the consequences of a delayed or inadequate response are far worse.
    Dai-ichi Buys Big Stake in Janus Capital Japan's largest publicly trade life insurer, Dai-ichi Life, has agreed to buy as much as 20 percent of the United States mutual fund company Janus Capital Group, Reuters reports.
    Standard Chartered of Britain has a date on Wednesday with the New York Department of Financial Services over why its state banking license should not be revoked. Trading in Facebook will become more interesting on Thursday, when millions of shares can come on the market with the expiration of a lock-up. 

Stocks and Markets in the News | Wall Street at Close: U.S. stocks stretch weekly gains to five

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch 

NEW YORK (MarketWatch)U.S. stocks erased Friday losses to tally their fifth week of gains, sending the S&P 500 to a four-month high, with disappointing Chinese trade data advancing hopes for further moves to bolster the global economy. 

“It’s Europe, China and the U.S. as the three big worries,” said Sandy Lincoln, chief market strategist at BMO Asset Management U.S. 

Noting the price-to-earnings expansion that has taken place in the large-cap defensive sectors, Lincoln said the market in recent weeks has seen a rotation back to economically sensitive components.
Assuming we muddle through on the big three — Europe, China and the U.S., the next shift could have investors moving from the economically sensitive large-cap companies to the smaller capitalized, Lincoln noted. 

What fiscal cliff means to investors Paul Vigna and Spencer Jakab discuss what could happen if to U.S. falls off the fiscal cliff, and David Benoit looks at the IPO of soccer powerhouse Manchester United. Photo: Getty Images. 

After a 70-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA +0.32%   ended up 42.76 points, or 0.3%, at 13,207.95, led by Hewlett-Packard Co. HPQ +1.49% . It rose 0.9% for the week. At five straight weeks, the blue-chip average is in its longest winning streak since October. 

The S&P 500 index SPX +0.22%  ended up 3.07 points, or 0.2%, to 1,405.87, with telecommunications the best performer and consumer staples off the most. The index ended at its highest level since April 3 and extended gains to a sixth straight session. 

The S&P has risen 10% from its June 1 closing of 1,278.04, reclaiming the 1,400 level in the past week. It rose 1.1% this week, also its fifth week of gains. 

The Nasdaq Composite COMP +0.07%  rose 2.22 points, or 0.1%, to 3,020.86 and ended up 1.8% for the week, its fourth straight week of gains. 

Volume, however, was low. New York Stock Exchange Composite volume was just over 2.7 billion, its lowest volume day in over a month. Nasdaq Composite volume was just over 1.5 billion, under the 2012 average of 1.74 billion. 

Recent gains can be chalked up to “just words with nothing more,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak in New York, referring to talk from central bankers, which has inspired hope of further moves to bolster the global economy, especially from the European Central Bank.
Gold and Treasury prices rose, with gold futures for December delivery GCZ2 +0.18%  up $2.60, or 0.2%, to $1,622.80 an ounce and the 10-year note’s 10_YEAR 0.00%  yield dropping to 1.662%. Read more on bonds. 
The U.S. dollar DXY -0.05%  edged lower against other global currencies including the euro EURUSD -0.0003% . Oil prices fell, with futures for September delivery CLU2 +0.03%  losing 49 cents, or 0.5%, to $92.87 a barrel. Read more on oil futures. 
“We’ve been talking about the tug of war for a while of the slowing global economy on the one hand, and central bankers trying to fight it tooth and nail on the other hand,” Miller Tabak’s Boockvar said of the underlying market issues. 

Making its market debut on the NYSE, Manchester United PLC MANU 0.00%  raised $233.3 million in its IPO, with shares of the English soccer club priced at $14 each, beneath the marketed $16 to $20 range. The stock ended at $14.00 and slid below that price in after-hours trading.

On Thursday, restaurant-chain operator CKE Inc. delayed its IPO. 

Friday’s slide had come in reaction to “the China data, even though we didn’t care about it yesterday,” Boockvar said of a report from China’s customs bureau saying the nation’s exports rose a less-than-expected 1% in July from the year-ago period, and imports climbed 4.7%. 

Thursday reports showed China’s industrial output growth at a three-year low, with retail sales below estimates and the inflation rate declining to a 30-month low. Read more on Asia data. 
“We don’t move on import prices,” Boockvar added of U.S. data. The Commerce Department said early Friday prices paid for U.S. imports slid 0.6% in July. Read more on import prices. 
Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.

CBS NEWS | Political Hotsheet Top Stories: Brown hammers Warren over voter registration drive

The CBS News Political Hotsheet newsletter

In Massachusetts Senate race, ongoing saga over liberal group's voter registration efforts on behalf of welfare recipients
Read full story
Brown hammers Warren over voter registration drive

Romney launches character offensive against Obama His team accuses the president of lying to the public and diminishing his office

Reid aide spills details about Bain source, then retracts them Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office is keeping mum on the source of his hearsay over Romney's taxes

Trump not speaking at GOP convention Donald Trump says the Romney campaign has something "much bigger" planned for him in Tampa this month

Republicans offer Romney unsolicited VP advice Mitt Romney may or may not have already picked his running mate, but conservatives continue to weigh in on the matter

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The Economist | Selected New Articles: A trip into Idleb, fibre-optics in America and a tribute to Robert Hughes

Newsbook: A trip into Idleb
Our correspondent describes the journey from Turkey to Syria's northwestern province of Idleb, where rebels hold swathes of territory
read more »
Babbage: Starbucks circles Square
A simple way to accept credit-card payments is gaining adherents
read more »

Democracy in America: Triumph of the little guys
Fibre is the way of the future
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Prospero: Remembering Robert Hughes
A critic who drew blood on the page
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Analects: Railroaded
A prosecution aimed at the former head of a most important Chinese ministry
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Daily chart: Golden states
The highest-achieving nations in the modern Olympics
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Audio: The week ahead
Hillary Clinton visits Turkey to discuss Syria, the verdict in the Pussy Riot trial is announced, Fidel Castro turns 86 and the Olympics come to an end
listen »
Online debate: Jewish fundamentalism
Is Israel succumbing to Jewish fundamentalism?
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World Gold Council Technology News Friday, August 10 2012

Technology News

10 August 2012

Gold Bulletin 2011 Impact Factor rises to 3.5
The World Gold Council sponsored technical journal, Gold Bulletin, saw an impressive 29.3% rise in Impact Factor in 2011. The open access journal, published in partnership with Springer, continues to attract cutting edge work from researchers all over the world. Make sure you don’t miss an issue by registering here for Gold Bulletin Table of Content email alerts.

Volume 45, Issue 2 just published
This year’s second issue of Gold Bulletin has just been published, and all papers are available to download in full here. Research topics include nanoparticle synthesis, catalysis, antimicrobials and sensing applications, alongside highlights from the recent literature and a conference review.
Gold Scientist Prize winners announced
Atsushi Kogo of the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo and Xin Zhang of the State Key Laboratory of Heavy Oil Processing, China University of Petroleum have been named as the winners of the 2012 Gold Scientist Prize. Atsushi and Xin will be presenting their work at the GOLD2012 conference in Tokyo on 5th September alongside some of the world’s other leading gold researchers. Over 400 researchers are expected to attend the Tokyo meeting, and registration is still open here

CBS NEWS | Daily News Summay: Orbama/Romney negative ads going to new extremes

CBS - Daily News Summary
August 10, 2012 | DAILY NEWS SUMMARY

Getting more negative and light on facts, observers say; Claims in some ads so dubious, they're making some people in both parties uncomfortable
Read full story
Obama/Romney negative ads going to new extremes
Olympic athletes let loose in London From the Olympic village to London's clubs, world's athletes celebrate in a big way as Games wind down

Syria rebels: Aleppo retreat tactical Opposition fighters insist they're still in fight for Syria's biggest city, but they've left key area, and ammo may be low

Eye Opener: More gold for U.S. women in London American women grab more gold in London. Also, the Romney campaign seems to be gearing up for the announcement of a running mate. All that, and all that matters, in today's "Eye Opener."

Veterans charity accused of squandering cash Calif. attorney general sues Help Hospitalized Veterans for "egregious" spending; Not charity's 1st time in hot water

Thousands to attend memorial for Sikh victims Mourners from around the world expected at Wis. service to honor six shooting victims at Sikh temple

Doctor accused of Delaware pediatrician Melvin Morse, who has researched near-death experiences with children, charged with endangerment

Wallenda: Sand made NJ tightrope walk tricky It was on the tightrope that daredevil Nik Wallenda traversed some 100 feet over a beach in Atlantic City

Despite massacres, gun control is a pipe dream Gun rights supporters win on intensity and single-mindedness

ADVFN III Worrld Daily Markets Bulletin - Friday , 10 August 2012

ADVFN III World Daily Markets Bulletin
Daily world financial news

Friday, 10 August 2012

US Market Reports
Stocks Moving Moderately Lower In Early Trading

Stocks have moved modestly lower in early trading on Friday after ending each of the two previous sessions roughly flat. The major averages have slipped into negative territory, although selling pressure has remained subdued.

The major averages are currently posting moderate losses, near their lows for the young session. The Dow is down 61.57 points or 0.5 percent at 13,103.62, the Nasdaq is down 14.39 points or 0.5 percent at 3,004.25 and the S&P 500 is down 6.19 points or 0.4 percent at 1,396.61.

The early weakness on Wall Street is partly due to disappointing Chinese trade data, which has led to renewed concerns about the outlook for the global economy.

A report released by China's General Administration of Customs showed that Chinese exports grew by just 1 percent year-over-year in July, decelerating from the 11.3 percent growth reported for June. Economists had forecast an 8 percent increase.

Chinese imports also rose at a slower rate in July, up 4.7 percent compared to the 6.3 percent increase in June. Economists had expected import growth to pick up to a 7 percent pace.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department recently released a report showing an unexpected decrease in import prices in the month of July.

The report showed that import prices fell by 0.6 percent in July after tumbling by 2.4 percent in June. The continued drop surprised economists, who had expected import prices to increase by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, export prices rose by 0.5 percent in July following a 1.7 percent decrease in the previous month. Economists had expected export prices to edge down by 0.1 percent.

Natural gas stocks have shown a notable move to the downside, dragging the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index down by 1.5 percent. With the loss, the index is pulling back off the three-month closing high that it set on Thursday.

Steel, networking, and oil stocks have also come under pressure, moving lower along with most of the other major sectors.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day down by 0.7 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has edged down by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are both down by 0.9 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are moving back to the upside after coming under pressure in recent sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 4.6 basis points at 1.642 percent.

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TSX Dips At Open Friday

Bay street stocks moved down at open Friday amid selling in commodities, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index slipping 40.75 points or 0.34 percent to 11,817.38.

Among gold stocks, Detour Gold was down 2 percent. Precious metals miner Osisko Mining Corp. lost close to 5 percent even after it swung to profit in second-quarter.

In the oil patch, Niko Resources and Crescent Point Energy were down over 3 percent each.

Oil and natural gas firm Legacy Oil + Gas Inc. lost close to 3 percent despite reporting higher second-quarter funds from operations.

Meanwhile, smartphone maker Research In Motion jumped 8 percent amid reports that IBM is eying its enterprise unit.

Automotive supplier Magna International Inc. gained about 4 percent after reporting a 24 percent increase in profit for the second quarter.

Wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. edged up 1 percent after reporting improved second-quarter net income.

The price of crude oil was moving lower Friday morning amid demand concerns after today's data revealed China's economy continued to shrink amid declining import and exports.

Earlier today the IEA trimmed its 2013 oil demand growth forecast by 0.40 mbd to 90.50 mbd from the earlier 90.90 mbd, on weaker economic growth assumptions. For the year 2012, the IEA now forecasts oil demand growth of 0.90 mbd to 89.60 mbd. Crude for September was down $1.56 to $91.80 a barrel.

The price of gold was ticking lower Friday morning amid a firm U.S. dollar, with stimulus expectations from global central banks supporting gold price. Gold for December was down $10.30 to $1,609.90 an ounce.

In corporate news from Canada, Brookfield Asset Management reported a sharply lower second-quarter net profit at $138 million or $0.17 per share, from $838 million or $1.26 per share a year ago. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of $0.37 per share this quarter.

Software solutions provider Open Text Corp. reported a sharp slump in its fourth-quarter net income at $7.97 million or $0.14 per share compared to $28.59 million or $0.49 per share in the same quarter last year. However, non-GAAP earnings rose to $1.17 per share from $1.05 per share in the year ago quarter, missing consensus estimates at $1.16 per share for the quarter.

Precious metals miner Osisko Mining Corp. swung to profit in second-quarter, reporting net income of C$13.3 million or C$0.03 per share, compared to a net loss of C$23.8 million or C$0.06 per share in the comparable quarter last year. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of $0.07 per share this quarter.

Wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. said second-quarter net income grew to C$20.84 million or C$1.30 per share, from C$17.27 million or C$1.08 per share a year before. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings per share of C$1.22 for the quarter.

Global energy services company Shawcor Ltd. Thursday reported second-quarter net income of C$21.40 million or C$0.30 per share, compared to C$15.70 million or C$0.21 per share in the previous year quarter.

Silver streaming company Silver Wheaton Corp. reported a lower second quarter net income at $141.4 million or $0.40 per share compared to $148.1 million or $0.42 per share in the same period last year. Analysts expected the company to earn $0.37 per share this quarter.

Crude oil and natural gas transporter Pembina Pipeline Corp. reported improved second quarter net profit of C$80.4 million compared to C$48.0 million last year. On a per-share basis, earnings declined to C$0.28 from C$0.29 on higher share count.

Renewable energy company Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. reported lower second-quarter net earnings of $6.1 million or $0.04 per share compared to $7.3 million or $0.07 per share last year. Adjusted net earnings were $6.9 million or $0.05 per share compared to $8.2 million or $0.07 per share last year. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of $0.04 per share for the quarter.

Gaming and entertainment company Great Canadian Gaming Corp. reported a decline in its second quarter profit at C$2.7 million or C$0.03 per share, compared to C$10.3 million or C$0.12 per share last year. Analysts predicted the company to earn C$0.15 per share for the quarter.

Automotive supplier Magna International Inc. on Thursday reported a 24 percent increase in profit for the second quarter and affirmed its sales outlook for fiscal 2012.

In economic news, Statistics Canada said employment in July declined by 30,000, resulting in a 0.1 percentage points rise in unemployment, which now stands at 7.3 percent. However, on a yearly basis employment increased 0.8 percent or 139,000.

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European Markets In Negative Territory After China Data

The European markets are in negative territory in afternoon trading Friday, after data from China showed that export and import growth slowed more than expected in July. The Asian markets also closed lower on the Chinese data.

Exports grew just 1 percent year-on-year in July, decelerating from the 11.3 percent growth reported for June, the latest figures from China's General Administration of Customs showed. Overseas purchases increased at a pace of 4.7 percent year-on-year compared to a 6.3 percent rise in June.

Closer home, the U.K.'s output price inflation eased to 1.7 percent in July from a revised 2 percent in June, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed.

A report released by French statistical office INSEE showed that French industrial output remained unchanged in June from the previous month. Manufacturing output was up merely 0.1 percent.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks is falling 0.84 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, is losing 0.49 percent.

The German DAX is falling 0.88 percent and the French CAC 40 is losing 1.02 percent. The UK's FTSE 100 is dropping 0.38 percent and Switzerland's SMI is down 0.41 percent.

In Frankfurt, Commerzbank is losing 2.4 percent after Deutsche Bank cut its rating on the stock. Deutsche Bank is falling 0.2 percent.

Hannover Re reported a marginal increase in second-quarter operating profit that missed analysts' consensus estimates. The stock is falling 3.5 percent.

Fraport is falling 1.3 percent. The owner and operator of Frankfurt Airport reported growth in passenger traffic at all its airports.

Steel giant ThyssenKrupp reported a decline in its third-quarter earnings, but profit and sales beat analysts' estimates. The stock is surging 6 percent.

Deutz is gaining 1.3 percent. UBS raised the stock to "Neutral" from "Sell."

SMA Solar is advancing 1.5 percent on a positive recommendation from UBS. In Paris, Peugeot is down 1.1 percent while Renault is losing 0.6 percent.

Alcatel Lucent is climbing 3.6 percent, thus leading the gainers. Societe Generale is gaining 1.5 percent and Credit Agricole is up 0.5 percent. BNP Paribas is losing modestly.

In London, Bunzl is declining 3.7 percent, reportedly on a broker downgrade. Prudential is losing around 1 percent after reporting first-half results.

Barclays is climbing 3.4 percent after announcing a new chairman. Standard Chartered is falling 1.4 percent even though HSBC raised its rating on the stock.

Aspo is falling 3.3 percent in Helsinki. The logistics firm said its operating profit for the year would fall significantly and earnings per share would fall slightly from 2011. Schibsted is surging 12 percent in Oslo after the media group reported second-quarter results.

Asia Market Reports
Asian Stocks Mixed On Growth Worries

Asian stocks ended on a subdued note Friday, as weak Chinese trade data heightened economic concerns. With exports rising just 1 percent year-over-year against an expected 8 percent growth, Chinese trade surplus narrowed sharply to $25.1 billion in July compared to a forecast $35.2 billion, increasing worries that the world's second-largest economy may suffer a hard landing.

Anticipation of policy action out of China and the prospect of ECB action to lower borrowing costs in the peripheral countries helped to limit the downside across Asia to some extent.

Tokyo stocks retreated as concerns about a slowdown in the Chinese economy prompted investors to book some profits after a four-day rally. Futures-led selling due to position-squaring ahead of the weekend and next week's holiday season in Japan also weighed on markets. The benchmark Nikkei average lost a percent, while the broader Topix index ended 0.7 percent lower.

Olympus Corp. fell 1.5 percent as the scandal-hit company posted a $57 million quarterly loss, weighed down by losses at its camera business and the stronger yen. Electronic parts maker Taiyo Yuden soared 10.3 percent and mobile gaming firm DeNA jumped 22 percent on strong earnings. Sony advanced 2.7 percent after it announced a tender offer to purchase all remaining shares in its subsidiary So-net.

China's Shanghai Composite index snapped a five-day winning streak to end 0.2 percent lower, as weaker-than-expected trade and credit data for July released Friday coming on the heels of disappointing industrial production and retail sales data dented hopes that the slowdown is bottoming out.

New yuan loans issued by Chinese financial institutions totaled 540 billion yuan in July versus expectations of 690 billion yuan, data from the People's Bank of China revealed.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.7 percent, with speculation concerning an imminent Chinese policy easing as early as over the weekend helping limit further downside.

Australian shares fell notably after data showed Chinese trade surplus unexpectedly narrowed in July. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7 percent, while the broader All Ordinaries index slid 0.6 percent. Miner BHP Billiton edged down 0.3 percent, Rio Tinto slid 0.7 percent and smaller rival Fortescue lost 1.6 percent after surveys showed Chinese manufacturing barely grew in July.

Banks ended mostly lower, with Commonwealth and Westpac retreating about 2 percent each after the Reserve Bank of Australia slightly lifted its forecast for the inflation rate this year to December 2012 by a quarter of a percentage point. Alongside its outlook for inflation, the central bank said it expects the economy to expand by an average 3.75 percent in 2012, faster than the 3 percent growth predicted in the May statement.

The Australian dollar weakened after the RBA cautioned against risks emanating from persistent strength of the dollar. "In the domestic economy, important risks revolve around exchange rate developments," the bank said in its latest quarterly statement on monetary policy.

Seoul shares ended modestly higher on continued hopes that major central banks will unveil more monetary stimulus measures to bolster economic growth. The benchmark Kospi average rose 6 points or 0.3 percent to 1,946, extending gains for a fifth consecutive session on the back of renewed foreign buying.

Tech shares and automakers led the gainers, while chemical makers and builders lost ground. Among the prominent gainers, heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 0.6 percent, Hyundai Motor gained 1.2 percent and LG Display climbed 3 percent. Shares of Donbgu Steel tumbled 3.6 percent on equity dilution worries.

New Zealand shares edged lower as investors awaited earnings results for directional cues. The benchmark NZX-50 index fell by 6 points or 0.2 percent to 3,578. Heartland New Zealand, the would-be bank, tumbled 3.6 percent on saying it expects a decision on its application for a banking license by November. Steel & Tube lost half a percent after the construction materials supplier reported a 23 percent fall in annual profit, as subdued construction activity and stiff competition dented margins.

Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, fell 1.2 percent and infrastructure investment firm Infratil lost a percent, while utility Contact Energy and phone company Telecom rose 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was down 0.1 percent on worries over weak monsoon rains and slowing domestic growth, while key benchmark indexes in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan rose between 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent.

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Crude Slips On Demand Worries

The price of crude oil was moving lower Friday morning amid demand concerns after today's data revealed China's economy continued to shrink amid declining import and exports.

Earlier today the IEA trimmed its 2013 oil demand growth forecast by 0.40 mbd to 90.50 mbd from the earlier 90.90 mbd, on weaker economic growth assumptions. For the year 2012, the IEA now forecasts oil demand growth of 0.90 mbd to 89.60 mbd.

Light Sweet Crude Oil (WTI) futures for September delivery, were down $1.12 to $92.24 a barrel. Yesterday oil settled flat mostly on expectation of further monetary policy easing after data from China showed a drop in Chinese consumer price inflation to a 30-month low in July.

Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries maintained its 2012 world oil demand growth forecast at 0.90 mbd and said the summer driving season, the summer heat, and the continued shutdown of most of Japan's nuclear capacity supported demand growth.

This morning, the U.S. dollar was hovering near a weekly high versus the euro and the Swiss franc, while trading higher against sterling and little changed versus the yen.

In economic news from the euro zone, Germany's EU harmonized inflation came in below the preliminary estimates In July, final data released by the Federal Statistical Office showed. The harmonized index of consumer prices measured under the EU methodology, increased 1.9 percent annually in July, slightly slower than the 2 percent gain estimated earlier. In June, the inflation rate was 2 percent.

In economic news from the U.S., the export & import price indexes for July are due out at 8:30 am ET. The consensus estimates call for a 0.2 percent month-over-month decline in import prices and a 0.1 percent decline in export prices. In June, import prices and export prices were down 2.7 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.